What does the love of God in John 3:16 mean?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
It is so important that we not bring our native preconceptions — not learned from the Bible — of love to the Bible, to make the Bible mean what we think love means. We should humble ourselves and ask, “What do you mean, God? Would you help me with the wider context and the fullness of your revelation to know what you mean by loving us in this verse?”
There are a few great things that are very obvious, are they not?
1. God loves the world. That is, he loves the great totality of fallen human beings — all of them.
2. This love is such a kind, such an intensity, such a magnitude, that it moved him to give his Son to die for the world.
3. One incontestable purpose and effect of that love is whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. In other words, this love opens the door so that anyone who believes will have eternal life.
4. Therefore, this love is indiscriminate. It may be spoken to, promised to, applied to everyone without exception, because that is what it says.
Love says, according to this verse, “If you will believe in my Son, I will give you eternal life. I can do that justly because my Son canceled the debts of all who believe, so that if you believe, your debts are canceled. My love for you is this: I gave my Son so that by merely trusting him, as the only condition, you would live with me in joy forever.”
Therefore, we may say to every human being, “God loves you, and this is how he loves you: He gave his Son to die, so that if you would believe, your sins would be forgiven, and you will live with him forever.” That’s the way to preach John 3:16, personally or in a pulpit.
So that’s what the love of God in John 3:16 means, promises, and does. It’s why this verse has been used of God so amazingly to save millions of people. It expresses what we love to call the free offer of the gospel. I love the free offer of the gospel.
There are no limits to this offer. It applies to every ethnic group, every age, every socioeconomic category, and best of all, every degree of sinner — from the bad to the worst — because there aren’t any other kinds. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever” — indiscriminate, universal — “believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Read, watch, or listen to the full message: